On feeding my sole obsession

As a kid in suburban Ohio, I grew up thinking that high heels represented adult sophistication and feminine glamour. Against my mother’s wishes, I was wearing them to school by early 2000’s. Similarly to Cher in “Clueless,” I would totter the corridors between periods in platform wedges and lace-up heels. At that point, I was experimenting with turtle necks and studded skirts—so I can’t really speak to exactly who I was trying to impress or why these were my chosen fashion statements, as much as I knew I wanted feel a little more grown-up.

Whether it is two inches or five, every woman[i] has a right to a kick ass pair of heels (though to be clear, this is not me condoning kitten heels). Most people question it—you’re elongating the leg and pinching toes, but for what? Do all women have such a unique relationship with their shoes, and why?

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain, Seduction

Spiky shoes, 1974, London, Malcom McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, From the ‘Sex’ collection, Leather and metal.

The skyscraper heel is an addictive, paradoxical combination of confidence, pain, and beauty. With the fetishized foot, a bold silhouette, the phallic shadow of a stiletto spike—it makes for an exquisite kind of torture. Regardless, such a seemingly commonplace object is imbued with contradictions in historical and sexual contexts, ironically inhibiting movement in order to increase it, at least in appearance. They affect how the body moves, “titillating the watcher and creating a sensual experience for the wearer”[ii].


Shoes. Klaus Carl. 2014.

Beginning in Grecian times, women and men alike donned the first high heel korthonos for theatrical purposes. Created by Aeschylus, his intent was to elevate actors in his plays to different heights to “indicat[e] varying social status or importance of characters”[iii] Even then, being taller meant something. Greek women adopted the trend, taking the wedge heel to new heights that would have left even the late Alexander McQueen envious.

The popularity of heels dropped after the 19th century, as twentieth-century women “demanded more comfortable, flat-soled shoes—that is until the roaring twenties when higher hemlines encouraged visible, elaborate, high, slender Louis heels”[iv]. With runway designers re-imagining the body shape and artistic possibilities of the high feel, we see a trend emerge where designers are using “innovative or unexpected materials [and] techniques; push[ing] the limits of functionality, wearability, and even conventional beauty, through surprising structure, shape, or height”[v]. The exhibit Shoes: Pleasure and Pain at Victoria and Albert Museum explores the global extremes and trends of shoe-wear until January 2016.

In an industry driven by pure superficiality, sex sells. We know this and allow consumers to take advantage of it. However, it’s worth considering why this may be, and that this desire to alter one’s appearance isn’t solely a by-product of current fashion or celebrity trends. Shoes are a major part of most people’s wardrobe, but also puts a lot of people on opposite sides of the spectrum: fashion or function? The cultural and transformative capacity of heels goes far beyond just dramatic shapes and silhouettes, but alludes to how our society’s notions of how gender, class, and sexuality intersect.

For more shots of the shoe evolution, go straight to the source: Klaus Carl’s Shoes.

Source: Originally posted on Parkstone International

Marianne Manzler

[i] Or man, for that matter—power to anyone trying to rock ‘em!





The Girl With The Tiny Unicorn


I love when my home city reps! Cincy people, do yourself a favor and see this bona fide art world mystery for yourself! But first… read up on why this blue-eyed beauty is so enigmatic.

Originally posted on Parkstone International:

I imagine her eyes sliding to her left, making eye contact with her husband or husband’s family. They are first watching her, then scrutinizing her rendering from behind the artist. She holds this animal in her hands as a physical reminder that she is a pure and graceful creature. She gently—almost imperceptibly—rubs its hind leg, trying to keep it still for this momentous occasion. The large, blood-red jewel hanging from her neck is heavy and her back is stiff from sitting in the same position, but it is all for a wedding—her wedding.

The truth is no one knows who the unidentified sitter of Raphael Sanzio’s Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn is. We have no idea if she had a demanding mother-in-law, if that animal was originally a dog or an actual unicorn (okay, maybe the former is more likely…), or if this was even commissioned for a…

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Instinct vs. Reason


Read my latest post on a controversial, yet brilliant painter who had everyone in the art world wondering: Who the f$&k is Jackson Pollock?!

Originally posted on Parkstone International:

Jackson Pollock, One: Number 31 (1950). Oil and enamel paint on canvas, 8′ 10″ x 17′ 5 5/8″

It’s a complete mess. Loops of color tangled together and running rampant energize nearly every inch of the composition. Far from the reaches of common sense or common experience, we cannot be sure what exactly we are looking at, or how we should feel. However when facing down Jackson Pollock’s seventeen foot monster One: Number 31 (1950), there is an unshakable feeling that this grand piece was no accident. The lyricism behind his movements—a web of flicks, dribbles, drips—is a lot like life, a mixture of uncontrollable and controllable factors. Maybe it’s not such a mess, as much as it simply elicits the response: What the f$&k?

Even Pollock himself asked his wife Lee Krasner, “Is this even a painting?”[i] He abandoned the traditional paint brush and easel at the end…

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Looking Beyond the Portrait


Take a look at my latest article– a brief commentary on East Asian art through a feminist lens. Enjoy!

Originally posted on Parkstone International:

Set sometime in the late 19th century, a woman in a colorful kimono gazes contemplatively out into the hazy distance. She stands with hips jutted out and hair pulled back into a loose bun, and I wonder, who is she? Why is she alone? Like most of the painted bijin-ga—a term that generalizes beautiful women—of the Miji period, we will likely never know much more about her or other East Asian women beyond their painted depictions.

Ogata Gekkō (1859–1920). Ogata Gekkō (1859–1920).

The truth behind her stoic gaze will go unanswered, which is ironic and almost sad, since these women were revered by poets, writers, and artists alike over several centuries. They served as the muse for hundreds of paintings and portraits and yet—who are they? Depending on the century, they were portrayed as “classic” representations of women, anywhere from slender and lanky to petite and curvy. Their faces unrecognizable from…

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Art, Garden, Life: Re-Imagining Frida Kahlo


It’s Frida Friday, ya’ll!!! I can’t hop on the B/D/4 train and see this exhibition, but all you NYC’ers can. Read my latest blog post for Parkstone International if you need more convincing!

Originally posted on Parkstone International:

Most people who are confronted by seemingly insurmountable pain and catastrophe succumb to the depression, much less are able to channel their despair in a creative way. Frida Kahlo, one of the most influential and important artistic personalities of the 20th century, only began painting after she was confined to a bed for three months following a near-fatal bus crash.

Kahlo said of her paintings: “I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best.” Magnetic, vibrant, sexual, but borne into a body riddled by disease, miscarriage, and a crippling accident—Kahlo managed to make her own life into a work of art. She created some of the most memorable images of our time, most of which went largely ignored for her entire life. Unaffected by her obscurity, Kahlo went on to have quite a prolific career, producing over 140 paintings.

The Broken Column (1944) Frida Kahlo, 50x70 cmThe Broken…

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The Darker Side of Mark Rothko


Check out my latest post for Parkstone International’s blog…

Originally posted on Parkstone International:

More than 50 years after Russian-born Mark Rothko was commissioned to create mural canvases for the nondenominational Rothko Chapel, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston is set to display the largest exhibition of his works since the late 90’s. Not too long before the chapel opened its doors, its artist took his life in a heartbreaking tradition seen by many artists like himself; self-annalistic and continually misunderstood (overdose of pills and razor blade to the wrists).

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1951, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. © 1998 by Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1951, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, gift of The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc. © 1998 by Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko

Depressing? So was the last period of his work, marked by his twenty-five painting series: Black on Gray, a desolation of canvases choked by a white border, leaving the viewer acutely aware of Rothko’s preoccupation with death and tragedy. Though his life ended quite…

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1.5 Months Abroad: 21(ish) Things I Know

Today marks my month and a half of living in Saigon. I’m sure it seems like a small feat, but it feels big. Every day I’m learning (or seeing) something new, but here’s what I know so far:

1. The excessive beeping isn’t considered rude, but a way of saying, “Excuse me, just so you know, I’m here.” Coming from NYC, it shouldn’t bother me too much. And now that I’m driving, I get it. I really do. But there are so many instances I’ll be sitting in traffic or in a cab and drivers will blare their horns, arbitrarily and incessantly, and I feel like I’m going to lose my shit.

2. I’m a millionaire. Approximately 1 million Vietnamese dong equals $45, so I still feel like a bad ass taking out a couple million from the ATM each week.

3. The coffee and café culture is unmatched. Seriously, I came here thinking that my days of café living were over. Wrong. There are more cafes than I can hope to visit in my time here. And they all have adorable interior décor and sell drinks that cost a fraction of what they cost in America. I have an iced coffee in the morning and afternoon, and it’s the best part of my day. The coffee is rich and almost chocolatey, mixed with a splash of condensed milk… there’s nothing else like it.

4. Speaking of which, everything is ridiculously cheap. I thought it was an exaggeration, but 10,000 vnd for a beer? That’s literally 45 cents. One time, I ordered a 5-course meal and paid $5 for it. After living here, it will be hard to cough up more than $10 for a meal. I’m trying to stay away from Shoe Street, but knowing that I can buy two pairs for $15 is almost too much for my shopaholic heart to handle.

5. Being vegetarian or vegan is super easy. Thanks to the large Buddhist population, vegetarian/vegan restaurants are incredibly commonplace in Vietnam. All vegetarian meals I’ve had here have blown my mind: the fried lemongrass tofu, butternut squash curry, curried pineapple, egg bánh mis, the bánh xèo
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I actually love how vegetarianism isn’t a thing or regarded as an inconvenience, but totally integrated into the culture. Most street food and restaurants have amazing vegetarian options or are purely vegetarian. Not to mention, it’s even convenient to communicate. Simply “chay”—said flat and evenly—means vegetarian. With enough pointing at yourself and the food, they’ll understand that you want in on all the veggie dishes.

6. Yeah, cheese isn’t really a thing here. Neither are most dairy products, which is pretty normal for most Asian countries. You can buy it, but it’s hella expensive. Probably for the best.

7. Being stared at is completely normal, but no easier to get used to. I’ve mostly stopped avoiding stranger’s stares, but find myself purposefully staring back to see what happens. So far, I look away first.

Lunch Lady8. Eating street food is one of the best parts of the city. This is where learning Vietnamese comes in handy—deciphering the menu or signs attached to the street cart. Sometimes it takes a little courage to ignore the stares and eat at a stand with a solely Vietnamese menu. I suggest doing a few drive-bys and scoping out what they’re serving before sitting down…

9. People are very curious about… me. Cue the questions. How old are you? Where are you from? No, like what are you? Where are you living? What’s your rent there? Do you have a boyfriend? Why aren’t you married yet?

10. Being a pedestrian might actually be more dangerous than riding on a motorbike. Giving pedestrians right of way is not how Vietnam operates. Crossing the street involves dodging 30+ motorbikes. At. The. Same. Damn. Time. I’ve learned: Just start walking. Confidently. Slowly. Not too slowly. Don’t rush. Never stop. Ignore the internal alarms, just. keep. walking. Unless you want to stay on the same side of the street forever, you have to put your trust in complete strangers’ hands and believe they will avoid you.

11. If there’s room, someone’s going for it. Sometimes, all you can see is a sea of helmets and motorbikes for miles ahead. In fact, their streets are the same as their elevators as their lines. 6 inches on the sidewalk? That will be a competition for a dozen bikes to fill. There’s room for one more person on the elevator? More like, let’s see if we can fit another 5 people. And you want to get off this elevator? You better throw some ’bows because seven more people are going to try to get on first. And if you’re in line, make sure you are as humanely close to the person in front of you as possible—even if there aren’t other people in line—because someone might come up and try to cut in front of you.

12. Eating noodles and rice with chopsticks is actually amazing. It always seemed super difficult at home, but it makes eating so much better here. Might be one of the many secrets to how Vietnamese women are so damn skinny…

13. Can’t get down with noodles and meat for breakfast. I’ve tried, but it’s not happening for me. I need yogurt or eggs or granola. Even just a banana and iced coffee works. Yesterday, I bought what I think is oatmeal…?

14. It’s very easy to get stuck in the expat bubble. I’m trying hard to befriend as many Vietnamese folks as I can because I really want to integrate myself into the culture. However, there’s a distinct divide between expats and locals, and it’s not always easy to bridge.

Ốc Tiên - Bờ Kè Hoàng Sa

15. You spend a lot of time drinking and eating at little plastic tables on little plastic stools. Hordes of people sitting in tiny, red or blue plastic chairs arranged on the sidewalk and street like an oversized game of musical chairs. We say, let’s just have a few and go somewhere else. Before we know it, we’ve gone through countless bottles of $4 homemade rum and coke and we’re stumbling to the nearest club (i.e. Apocalypse) to dance off the buzz.

16. Saigon’s location lends itself to some incredible weekend trips. It’s a short train or plane ride away Mui Ne, Dalat, Halong Bay, Hanoi, Hoi An. Not to mention, we border Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore? The planning has already begun.

17. I quit caring (as much) about ants being everywhere. I find them crawling in my bed, on my clothes, in my sink, out from my computer.

18. I crave sweets all the time, but this sweet tooth might be assimilating. Vietnamese desserts are very subtle in sweetness—when it comes to desserts, I think of chocolate, cakes, or donuts. Here, their version is their version of dessert is flan, sticky rice, chè, moon cakes. At a buffet the other night, they had an ice-cream truck, but I found myself going for seconds on the sticky rice, which is basically just rice and sesame and honey…

19. Moving abroad has incredibly difficult, but surprisingly easy. Being so far away from friends and loved ones? Not even the best reception and longest Skype session can assuage that I-miss-home feeling. However, Saigon is incredibly receptive to expats and the things that I thought would be hard have been so easy! There’s such a supportive community here, especially since most people are experiencing the same woes (i.e. where can I find imported goods? Best place for a dentist? Where is the best massage parlour?)

20. Vietnamese is not impossible to learn… I think? I arrived in Saigon armed with a Vietnamese vocabulary of about zero words. Within a month, I’ve expanded that vocabulary to the essentials: hello, no, thank you, left, right, go, drink beer, iced coffee with milk, no sugar, tofu, bill. Now that I’m thinking about it, still not really sure how to say yes or goodbye, strangely enough. When it comes to communication, you learn quickly what you truly value…

The fact the Vietnamese switched over from character-based writing (similar to Chinese) to a Romanized script in the 17th century makes learning the language so much more doable. Never mind that this was as a result of foreign missionaries and colonization… I DIGRESS. Anyways, did you know that there are 12 vowels, 17 consonants, and 6 different tones in Vietnamese? That means each syllable can have up to 6 different meanings based on how you pronounce it, changing the meaning completely. Ma, for example, can mean mother, gravestone, horse, but, ghost, or rice seedling. Don’t even get me started on the differences between northern and southern pronunciation, which completely changes how most words are pronounced. While the letters F, J W and Z don’t technically exist, they do in spirit when certain marks are used, turning perfectly normal letters into a completely different sound altogether.

However, I’ve been practicing different phrases every day, and the point is to try. This language is all about muscle memory and practice. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been caught in that awkward situation of trying to say something, then repeating myself several times, raising my voice or changing my intonation five different ways, hoping to God the person will understand me and put me out of my misery. Vietnamese has been described to me as a musical language and the trick is to associate words with tunes to remember it. Here’s to singing my way through my Vietnamese lessons…

21. About the sound “Ng” (eg. Nguyen)—it’s awkward AF to pronounce.
Is the g silent or not???